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Workflow Automation 101 – All You Need to Know

Here at Process Street, we love workflow automation.

After all, our platform was designed with the purpose of making things easier for our customers. And well-designed workflow automation can do just that.

Because, let’s face it, inputting data manually is both tedious and inefficient. It wastes time and resources, and it generally makes a lot of people miserable!

But what is workflow automation, and why should you care about it? Can it help transform your business from slow-progressing to dynamic and efficient?

We’ll be exploring those questions in more detail, so stick around.

And if you’re particularly keen to find a specific answer, feel free to click on one of the below:

  • What is workflow automation?
  • Why is workflow automation important?
  • Workflow automation stages
  • Benefits of workflow automation
  • Challenges of workflow automation
  • Workflow automation best practices
  • Workflow automation software tools & vendors
  • Workflow automation examples
  • Workflow automation templates
  • Future of workflow automation

Let’s dive in!

What is workflow automation?

Generally speaking, many workflows have processes that are dull, waste resources, and are filled with errors. And for teams, this can become a real burden. 

Badly run processes often end up costing companies way more than investing in good automation software.

What’s more, according to Zapier’s 2021 rapport, over 90% of workers perform time-consuming and repetitive tasks. This often causes unhappiness and work dissatisfaction that leads to burnout.

Luckily, workflow automation uses software to streamline, reduce costs, and remove errors.It’s a way of passing repetitive work on to a clever tool that will automate it for you.

And there’s more to it than meets the eye! 

Workflow automation can:

  • Maximize productivity
  • Eliminate paperwork
  • Set up reminders
  • Schedule social media posts
  • Send emails

What’s more, it’s a versatile tool that can be applied to virtually any industry from education to marketing.

Why is workflow automation important?

Workflow automation can release the pressure felt by entire departments by simply getting rid of manual processes.

This allows you and your team to concentrate on more valuable tasks, making work faster and more consistent.

For example, thanks to workflow automation, Marketing teams can:

  • Schedule social media calendars weeks in advance
  • Nurture existing client base by sending email offers and newsletters 
  • Allocate tasks across the whole team
  • Welcome a new customer to their company
  • Create a drip campaign for new customers

HR departments can:

  • Remove unsuccessful candidates from the database
  • Send W2 forms to employees
  • Collect employee feedback
  • Send onboarding emails and tasks
  • Populate the database with new employee’s contact details

And for Sales teams, workflow automation can:

  • Help to place new leads at different stages of the pipeline when they take certain actions
  • Send introduction emails to new leads
  • Schedule lead meetings and appointments
  • Updating the deal stage
  • Create tasks for sales reps

As you can see, automation is incredibly useful for all companies and can profoundly impact any team.

Workflow automation stages

We’ve created a list of workflow automation stages to help you see what it takes to implement workflow automation (and it’s not as scary as it sounds!).

  1. Identify the processes that need automation

Repetitive and manual tasks are great examples. Things such as data entry or client and employee onboarding can easily be put into this category.

Try to prioritize tasks that are the least efficient and prone to human error, as well as those that need a lot of manual handling.

  1. Define your goals

Make sure to have clear goals and an idea of how workflow automation can help you and your business. 

Some of those could be:

  • Improving team communication
  • Saving money on multiple tools
  • Boosting productivity
  • Reducing the burden of manual tasks
  • Creating a fast and efficient onboarding process

You may choose one of the above, or all can be true. But by setting clear goals, you’ll be able to implement automations in a way most suited to your particular needs.

  1. Choose the right software

Choosing the right software is vital because it can either make you fall in love with automations or permanently ban the word from your dictionary. So choose wisely (we’ll give you some suggestions later on in this post).

Make sure your chosen software is full of features and functions that will benefit your situation. You’ll also want to consider the price point and whether it’s worth the hype (many are not).

  1. Train your employees (and yourself)

Ensure that you and your employees know how to use the brand-new software. 

If you pick the right company, they’ll be able to offer educational content such as walkthroughs, video tutorials, FAQs, and more. 

So shop around to get the best bang for your buck.

  1. Create the process

Designing a workflow can seem intimidating, but it really isn’t. You certainly don’t need to be an expert to do it well.

In fact, here at Process Street, we make it super easy for our customers to learn how to create workflows. We believe that anyone can do it! 

Our Customer Success team creates a highly personalized walkthrough for each new subscriber to ensure our customers are aware of all the cool features of Process Street. 

They first ask in-depth questions about your needs, then hop on a call to show you everything you need to achieve your goals.

We also offer a help center full of useful articles to get started. And our team is always available to answer queries, and they do it fast!

You’ll soon be on your way to running your first workflow.

Benefits of workflow automation

“So, with all the amazing things said so far, how many workflow automation benefits are there?” we hear you ask.

Well, plenty, actually!

But the most important ones are listed below for your convenience. 

Amplified productivity

Your team will quickly feel the difference after you’ve introduced workflow automation. 

Guaranteed! Their workday will simply become much more productive, which will also increase their overall productivity.

All the manual, repetitive tasks will now be automated, no more updating information in multiple tools. No more waiting for approvals to reach them when it’s too late. 

Now, everyone can stay in the loop by being able to track approvals and tasks in the workflow system.

Fewer errors

Humans are prone to errors. Fact.

Naturally, aiming for no mistakes, even with workflow automation software, is unattainable.

But automations will significantly reduce those errors so you can focus on more important things. 

That’s because the system will pinpoint precisely where the issues lie and, over time, you’ll be able to determine why they happen and how to avoid them in the future.

Improved communication

Communicating effectively across departments or even teams can take time and effort. 

Workflow automation improves communication by allowing you to see exactly where your colleagues are with their tasks. Have they done most of it already? Or are they well behind, so a quick nudge may be needed?

In any case, you won’t need to worry about sending numerous emails – just check the workflow system to track progress. 

Juggle multiple tasks with ease

All your requests, approvals, onboarding tasks, and more will be accessible from a single place.

Now everything will be:

  • Organized according to importance
  • Delegated automatically 
  • Configured to trigger steps based on pre-set conditions
  • Accessed quicker

This will make it easier for you to juggle multiple tasks while not losing momentum.

Increased trust

No one likes micromanagement. We all come to work to do our jobs, and most of us want to perform well and be trusted to do so.

Workflow automation can increase that trust by making each task crystal clear and all goals precisely defined.

When everyone is assigned their tasks and knows what to do, you can concentrate on doing your job, too.

You also gain more control over your data, so only specific people can access certain files and documents. This means that sensitive information can be withheld while company-wide announcements quickly distributed.

Challenges of workflow automation

With all the benefits, it’s easy to ignore workflow automation challenges, but they are there.

So here are the most common challenges that you may encounter: 

  1. Choosing the wrong software

If you don’t know what to look for, you may end up purchasing software unsuitable for your company and your needs.

  1. Employee resistance

Even the best software won’t be able to help if your employees are unwilling to learn how to use it. You should provide ample training and encourage your employees to explore the new tools. 

  1. Privacy breaches

Workflow automation makes it easy for everyone in the company to view and share tasks and documents. But if your chosen software doesn’t offer security and privacy features, you may have a big problem.

It’s worth noting that you can avoid most of the above challenges by careful planning and goal-setting. 

You should address all your concerns with your workflow automation provider, and they should be able to help you fix any issues.

Workflow automation best practices

To bypass and prevent issues, we’ve created workflow automation best practices to help you get it right the first time around.

Have a workflow map – by having a written or drawn-out workflow map, you can keep your team ready for each step in the process so you know what to expect.

Plan for failuresalways have a plan in case things go wrong.

Prioritize – organize your workflow so that the most important steps go first

Help out – don’t just assume that people won’t make mistakes because everything’s automated.  Help a team member who seems to be behind with their tasks.

Look beyond the workflow – problems may arise that have nothing to do with your workflow automation. So don’t blame every little thing on the workflow. Assess the company instead. There may be some organizational problems within it.

Most importantly, remember to keep everything in perspective and have a plan in case the worst-case scenario happens.

Workflow automation software tools & vendors

Process Street

workflow automation employee onboarding

Process Street is a simple yet powerful, no-code platform to run workflows, build processes, and move forward faster.

It allows you to manage all your internal processes effectively from day one. 

By providing access to an extensive library of pre-made workflows, Process Street offers an unparalleled user experience.

Best for:

  • All-in-one platform

Features:

  • Automations and 3000+ integrations with third-party apps
  • Easy to use and no-code
  • Library of pre-made templates for a variety of industries
  • Pages allow you to create process documents that your teams can collaborate on

Pricing:

  • Free – try it out with our free forever plan!
  • Pro – $25/month 
  • Enterprise – contact our sales team for a quote. This plan is custom-made and personalized to your business needs.

HubSpot

workflow automation hubspot

HubSpot is especially useful for Sales, Marketing, Service, and Operations departments. 

It lets you connect with over 50 workflow integrations while offering a simple interface. 

This is why we consider HubSpot a good choice for beginners.

Best for:

  • Those just starting out

Features:

  • Automate emails to use in workflows
  • Add comments to other HubSpot assets (depending on subscription type)
  • Add data directly to GoogleSheets
  • Create Trello cards

Pricing

  • Free
  • Starter – $50/month 
  • Professional – $890/month
  • Enterprise – $3,200/month

Zapier

workflow automation zapier

Zapier is a platform that integrates with many third-party apps, but it’s not particularly great for beginners. We find it takes a while to get used to the product and figure out how to use its features.

Once you get the hang of it, it’s relatively easy to set up and offers pre-made lead generation workflows to use straight from the box.

Zapier allows you to build customized tasks that are highly personalized to your individual needs.

Best for:

  • Smaller teams and more advanced users

Features:

  • Workflows that connect to third-part services and apps
  • Each workflow (Zap) can have up to 100 actions
  • Customizable workflows

Pricing

  • Free
  • Starter – $17.45/month 
  • Professional – $42.72/month
  • Company – $698.54/month

Workflow automation examples

We’ve touched on this before, but we love to overcommunicate (it’s one of our company values), so we’ve compiled workflow automation examples and use cases.

Manufacturing

Workflow automation reduces the burden of manual data inputting and improves quality-control errors. It also  cuts down the budget and purchase approval cycle times. And let’s not forget about automating purchase requests and contract sending between companies and clients.

Finance

Automation supports greater accuracy and increases consistency in payments. It can also help with compliance requirements and approvals.

ITaaS (IT as a service)

With workflow automation, ITaaS can manage the process of deploying and overseeing business networks more effectively. Automations are also useful for managing all their systems easier in real-time.

Information Security

Incident reports can be easily automated and integrated with other security tools to allow IT to manage ecosystems better. Moreover, you can also use workflow automation to monitor cyber threats to increase security.

Workflow automation templates

We are giving you free workflow automation templates so you can see what a well-structured workflow should look like.

These are templates for workflows that have been fully fleshed out and are ready to use. All you need to do is assign tasks and due dates, and you’re done.

Below are some examples to get you started:

Property management

Sales

HR

Marketing

IT

Software

And we have many more in our library, so check out our free demo here!

Future of workflow automation

At Process Street, we believe that automation is the future and the key to a more productive workforce. And the future of automation is already here.

Businesses are using automation to improve productivity and job satisfaction and to create efficient and scalable systems.

In other words, workflow automation helps them grow their businesses by reducing human error and time-consuming tasks.

And most importantly, the shift to no-code solutions makes them more accessible to all. Now anyone from decision-makers to collaborators can create and deploy workflows.

This allows organizations to become more collaborative and move away from a micromanaging, top-down structure. All while increasing productivity and scaling the business more rapidly.

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